The history of the Israeli Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation is fittingly
similar to the history of the State of Israel.
It began as an unlikely
dream, endured brushes with disaster, and made it to where it is today with the
help of unlikely allies, and the sweat and tears of many inspired and relentless
men and women.
It began with Aaron Zeff, a former F-4 Phantom Pilot in
the United States Air Force, getting a rush of adrenaline (and perhaps
nostalgia) watching the bobsled competition, in the 2002 Winter Olympics, in
Salt Lake City. Zeff called his friend John Frank, a two-time Super Bowl
champion with the San Francisco 49ers of the NFL.
“John, you need to
listen to this,” Zeff yelled into his phone as a sled roared past. “That was a
bobsled, and I think we need to try this.”
Within the next few months,
the newly formed Israeli Bobsled Team had received the green light from the
Israeli National Olympic Committee (NOC), to represent Israel in competition as
a member nation of the Fédération Internationale de Bobsleigh et de Toboggan
(FIBT), the international body that governs the two Winter Olympic
In the fall of 2002, Zeff and Frank crashed their sled countless
times on the track at Calgary while participating in FIBT Driver
Worse still, the crashes took Zeff out of commission with a
compression fracture in his spine, leaving Israel 1 without a
Still defiant and persevering, Zeff called his friend David
Greaves, a native of Winnipeg, and recruited him to serve as Frank’s
With Frank piloting the sled for the first time, Israel 1
promptly crashed again.
Rattled but otherwise high on adrenaline, Greaves
opted to hang around for Zeff to recover from his injuries.
months later, Zeff’s doctors cleared him to get back behind the controls of
Under the coaching of New Zealander Ross Dominikovich, on those
same treacherous curves of Calgary Olympic Park, Zeff and Greaves successfully
completed one run and then many more runs. The two Israeli bobsledders logged 10
successful trips down the track that week, each night phoning Frank to share in
One year after that first phone call from Salt Lake City,
Zeff, Frank and Greaves were making Aliyah in May of 2003.
year in November, with Zeff and Greaves aboard, Israel 1 made its debut in the
Americas Cup Race, in Park City, Utah.
Israel 1 competed all across North
America that season, and coming into the final AC race in Lake Placid, was
poised to qualify for World Championships.
Zeff arrived several days
ahead of the others, and was hosted by Andy Teig, a local EMT who would later
join the team as a Bobsledder. Living five minutes from the Lake Placid track,
Teig volunteered to fill in as a brakeman for the training runs.
Lloyds of London wouldn’t have insured the Israel 1 sled that season, with the
amount of abuse it withstood.
On the final day of training before the
race, the dutiful sled finally snapped in half, leaving the team without a sled
on the eve of the big race day.
“The Wolf”, as Teig was called, loaded up
the mangled sled onto his truck, took it home, and welded all through the night.
Israel 1 made it down the track twice the next day, placing fifth out of 19
teams and qualifying the team for World Championships, three weeks later in
Since that inaugural season, the IBSF members have
endured their fair share of bumps and crashes. But they have never looked back,
and are still on that track towards making their Olympic debut.
Bradley Chalupski joined the federation as the lone skeleton racer.
have known no greater honor in my life than representing Israel at the 2011 FIBT
World Championships in Königssee, Germany.”
In December 2011, Chalupski
earned Israel its first medal in skeleton at the America’s Cup in Lake Placid,
NY and will be competing in the world championships later this month, also in
“It’s an incredible honor to win a medal for an entire
nation. I feel thankful, proud and amazing,” said Chalupski.
the Secretary- General of the IBSF, had this to say: “News of Bradley’s first
medal and our Federation’s first ever skeleton medal will now sit alongside our
bobsled medals and will help blaze a trail for other young
Bradley and Israel and all Jewish sports enthusiasts should be
“My goal is to represent Israel in the 2014 Winter Olympics in
Sochi, Russia,” exclaims Chalupski, with not even a hint of arrogance. “With a
spot secured on the FIBT World Cup circuit, that goal is also squarely in my
sights.”For more information on the IBSF or Bradley Chalupski’s quest to
qualify for the Olympics, please visit www.israelibobsled.com, email
firstname.lastname@example.org or follow on Twitter: @TeamIsraelSkele